|Mrs Evelyn Sedgewick, acting principal at Suffolk Primary School, on Blacks Road. US1909.566CD||Children will have to seek places in other schools in the area after Suffolk Primary closes down. US1909-5-67CD|
SUFFOLK Primary School should have been celebrating its 55th anniversary later this year, but instead it is preparing to close its doors for good.
The school, which opened on 26 August 1954, is to close at the end of this academic year after Education Minister Caitriona Ruane approved a Development Proposal to allow for the cessation of educational provision at the school.
She said the school had served the Suffolk and Blacks Road community for many years but demographic changes have led to declining enrolments and concerns about the school's continued sustainability.
"It is never an easy decision to agree to the closure of any school, but I am confident that my decision is in the best educational interests of the pupils currently attending the school. I would like to pay tribute to the staff at the school and to thank them for their dedication and commitment over the years" she said.
It is particularly sad for the Acting Principal Mrs Evelyn Sedgewick, who herself was a pupil of the school from 1957-1964. She returned to teach in the nursery unit from 1985 until 2007 when she became Acting Principal.
She said: "Suffolk has always had the name of being a happy school where children come first in all considerations. Staff are keen that these words of former teacher Mrs Mary Scott would remain their aim until the doors are closed for the last time."
Chairman of the Board of Governors Mr Jim Neill, also a former pupil of the school, said that while the closure is regrettable there was no alternative. He said: "The majority of children currently attending primary classes 1-6 will transfer to Taughmonagh Primary School."
|The official party at the opening of Suffolk Primary School in 1955.||The official opening of Suffolk Primary School.|
The school began as a temporary building with an expected lifespan of 15 years. The 19 primary children currently enrolled are still inhabiting that building.
It enjoyed increasing rolls until 1969 with approximately 900 children, 31 teachers and Principal Lt. Col. H. Davison. The purpose built nursery had to be used to accommodate four primary classes until a decline in numbers allowed it to open as a double nursery unit in 1972.
During the Principalship of Mr P Vance the school celebrated its 40th anniversary. Only nine years later, with confidence high that the new build would be underway before the end of the next full academic year, the then Principal Mr I Gourley together with staff and pupils celebrated its 50th anniversary. However, as enrolment continued to fall, the Department of Education decided that new building plans would not be proceeding. This news led to a further drop in numbers.
Parents then sought integrated status but this was refused in July 2008. Following this decision, the Board of Governors, parents and staff agreed that closure was the only, if regrettable, course of action they could take. Lisburn Councillor Trevor Lunn MLA has expressed sadness that Suffolk Primary School is to close.
Mr Lunn said: "I regret this decision, but in light of falling roles it does seem inevitable. "This bad news for the local community and is an announcement that will be received with disappointment.
"Hopefully children affected by this closure can be accommodated in surrounding schools with minimum disruption to them.'
Anyone wishing to visit the premises before the close for the last time can contact Evelyn on 02890 613105 and make an arrangement to visit before the end of June. She would be especially keen to meet those who attended as pupils during her own school era.